I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Published by Houghton Mifflin on November 4th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.
She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has..
FINALLY I got my hands on Mortal Heart! After not getting a response on my ARC request for this book for months, I was starting to feel bitter –not because they owe me books, but because I just wanted it so bad! It was as if my reading fate was in limbo, and I’m…impatient. So naturally, when months later I find that I have been approved, I had the most giddy squeal fest and devoured this book in two days.
Mortal Heart definitely lived up to the expectations I had after reading the first two books, and more. First, it filled the knowledge gap that was sorely lacking: the first two books introduce us to the Convent of Saint Mortain (Death) and the assassin nuns, but much was left out of the experience of convent life, and the inter-workings of the assassin training. Apparently, all this knowledge was saved for Mortal Heart, because finally, the reader is given an inside look into the methods and practices of the convent, the other young novitiates, their techniques, and everything that I have been wondering about so fervently! What’s more, this book also delights by expanding on the theology of the Nine Gods, the groups that serve and follow them, and how traditional “new” religion manages to co-exist. If that were not enough to fascinate, there is a whole new introduction to creatures of myth, and the paranormal magics that are otherwise hinted at in the first two of the series.
Mortal Heart, like Dark Triumph, is happening concurrent to the stories picked up from the other Handmaidens of Death, where Annith has been left behind at the convent, devastated and puzzled why she, the most skilled of all the novitiates, has not been chosen for assignment. As the reason for her deliberate omission becomes clear, Annith’s world is shattered, and she must make the choice whether she will follow the wishes of the convent she has served her whole life, or if she will follow her conflicted heart and shape her destiny on her own.
When I read Dark Triumph, I was convinced that Sybella was going to be the most tragic and damaged of the Handmaidens, but overall, the revelations of Annith’s backstory confirm that she was more shafted than anyone else. She is easily the most tragic character of the series, and truly has to contend with the most complex and uncomfortable circumstances. However, as unexpected as this backstory might have been, many of these reveals didn’t end up surprising me. Sure, they were written in a way that clearly were meant to be shocking, but they were well foreshadowed, and I had everything figured out well before they were confirmed in text. Fortunately, that didn’t take away from their validity; Annith’s past didn’t need to shock you for be emotionally invested, or to be intrigued to read on.
What I love about this book series is LaFevers’ ability to give each character a deeply intimate personal story and the ability to pursue and develop love interests, all while not loosing sight of the continuing political atmosphere of the background. Mortal Heart seamlessly focuses on the mounting pressure on the Duchess of Brittany under threat of French invasion, as well as Annith’s self-discovery. Every element of the story comes together wonderfully, and if this is the end of the series, it ends with very few loose ends left to wonder at. This is the mark of a great read.
Admittedly, the ending was slightly cliche, but as there is somewhat of a YA-vibe to the series, I’ll take it!